Sunday, August 2, 2020

Review: Cobble Hill Jigsaw Puzzles

"Love Never Faileth" - one of my favourite details from Grandma's Buttons

The world has become really overwhelming since the last time I posted! I hope you and your loved ones are keeping well, as much as possible right now 🍀

One of the few perks of the pandemic is a renewed interest in jigsaw puzzling 🧩 In my family, we usually always did a puzzle together at Christmastime; often Santa Claus would leave a gift for "all of us" under the tree, and in the post-Christmas lull we would all put a few pieces in here and there. I have very happy memories of those times 💕

What I've never done, until now, is buy a puzzle for myself and put it together from start to finish alone - and I've discovered that I really love it! When I can't focus on anything else, or I'm feeling restless, anxious or upset, working on a puzzle calms me down. I love the bright colours, shifting the pieces through my hands, knowing that it will all fit together in the end - somehow 😆 I enjoy the process as much as the finished result.

As a consequence, I've discovered a whole new world of premium puzzle manufacturers and puzzling fans and reviewers! For anyone else getting back into the world of puzzles, I highly recommend having a look at brand websites, YouTube reviews that show actual puzzles in assembly to get a feel for a brand's design, and searching for puzzle blogs. I've only scratched the tip of the iceberg, but I was happy to find a thriving online jigsaw community that is currently growing by leaps and bounds!

A trio of helpful links to start with:
🧩 Jigsaw Junkie's extensive Brand Comparison
🧩 Karen Puzzles on YouTube, with helpful videos on all aspects of puzzling;
🧩 and My Jigsaw Journey, the blog of an avid puzzler!

First, I worked through my small pile of puzzles from Christmases past. My favourite was this one, Cobble Hill's Sewing Notions:

I bought this for us for Christmas 2016, but that was a very difficult time with a death in the family and so I didn't put it together until April 2019. The gorgeous image - which includes vintage needlebooks, needle packages, embroidery floss, wooden thread spools, crochet hooks, knitting needles, and many buttons! - is by amazing college artist Shelley Davies. My favourite detail is this vintage cross-stitch band:

And to my surprise and delight, when I posted about this puzzle on Instagram, Shelley told me that it's actually pillowcases that her Grandmother made! How wonderful is that?! One of the things I love about most needlework is the way it transcends generations and is often passed down in families 😊

Notice the beige edging on the box: this is the old-style Cobble Hill puzzle, starting with number 5 (it is now available in the improved new version, but this is something to be aware of as older stock may still exist in stores). They do not have a reference poster, so the corner with the logo is a mystery. Also, although I love the image so much, the cut on the pieces wasn't great, with a lot of "play" between them - you couldn't put small sections together and then move them to the board. It was also my first random cut puzzle, where all the pieces are different shapes, and it was very challenging at first! It's something I've really come to love though, you know for sure you have the right piece in the right place. And the unique shapes are interesting to the eye.

Recently, I treated myself to two more of Cobble Hill's crafty puzzles:

You can see these are the new number 8 series, with a green edging. The number 5 series puzzles had a sky-blue cardboard for the pieces, which didn't fit together as well as they could. I'm happy to report the new version - with a regular cardboard back - fits together beautifully! These new puzzles share the lovely matte linen finish of the last series. Both come with a "poster", which to my delight is an uncreased great quality print, suitable for framing for your craft room!

This puzzle was a delight to put together from start to finish!

It was so fun to look at all the different buttons! In my family, we have a tradition of button tins. I have fond memories from when I was very young of playing with my Great-Grandmother's button tin; I could spend ages shifting the buttons through my hands, marvelling at the different colours, shapes and textures. Not much has changed 😆 My Grandma has several small collections, mostly lost and orphaned buttons; my Mom has a large collection, mostly on cards from her sewing days; and I'm proud to have my own these days! Some of the buttons in the puzzle were similar to ones in our collections, and some - like the sparkler on top of this dish - I'd love to own!

With this puzzle, I found myself putting together each dish by colour, then doing the edges of the dishes, followed by the pretty vintage floral background.

I love the little ribbon roses in this dish too!

And this single gold-rimmed dish reminds me of beautiful real Mother-of-Pearl buttons that were plentiful in my Great-Grandma's button tin, so long ago 😊

Since I was a young child, I've been fascinated by crazy quilts! The traditional rich jewel tone colours, the beautiful specialty fabrics like velvet and satin, all the different textures of appliques and ephemera, the intricate combinations of stitches - it all speaks to my stitchy soul and my magpie stashing instinct! I would love to make one of my own some day, and I have been collecting a few books on the subject for inspiration.

So I was thrilled to discover Cobble Hill's Crazy Quilt puzzle:

This was another puzzle I greatly enjoyed and would highly recommend, but it is definitely on the more challenging side! I had thought that I would enjoy following the stitches in the seam treatments, but the puzzle image is a painting by Helen Klebesadel (from her series Watercolor Quilts: Everyday Use) and up close all the stitches fragment so you can't really match them up. The colours are much farther ranging than the brights you immediately see, because the draping of the quilt necessitates lots of really dark shading. So I put the pieces together by colour!

It's a very fun effect, because while you're working close up with the pieces it almost looks like stained glass, and then when you step back from it, all the stitches finally come into focus and you see the quilting effect! Although the cover image is vertical I ended up putting together the puzzle horizontally, as I find it easier to reach that way.

I use a sheet of black foam board core and hold it in my lap, across the arms of a comfy chair; it's light and maneuverable, the dark colour makes the pieces show up, and it's easy to stow away under a couch or a bed while the puzzle is in progress. And, as you can see, it's just the right size for most 1000 piece puzzles!

My Some Day Crazy Quilt will definitely have a fan motif, I've always been drawn to them - so I was thrilled to discover this one in the puzzle (there is also a traditional cobweb too)! It was also very fun to try and identify the different embroidery stitches used. This is one of the most challenging puzzles I've ever done, and the most challenging puzzle I've ever done solo, but it was worth it and it's one I can see doing again and again.

Although Cobble Hill puzzles are in the pricier "premium puzzle" bracket, I think they give excellent value for money and are sturdy, to withstand repeated assemblies. I love both of these images enough to do the puzzles again, and they would make great gifts for a housebound stitchy friend! Although jigsaw puzzles have been nearly impossible to buy during the pandemic, due to renewed interest and manufacturer closures, Cobble Hill has recently reopened and is slowly restocking, and I've noticed that a lot of other puzzle companies are doing the same. I have bought all of mine on Amazon Canada.

Do you do jigsaw puzzles? Do you have a favourite brand or subject? In addition to crafty things, I love bright colours and also enjoy bird and flowers motifs - not unlike my stitching preferences, in fact 😉


Queeniepatch said...

I, too, love puzzles and think they are perfect for calming one down in times of stress. You have found a good collection of really beautiful ones.
Stay safe.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

I was thrilled to find some crafty puzzles, and I'm glad you enjoy them too! Hope you are keeping well also 💐

Anonymous said...

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ho deciso di organizzare un SAL DI BENVENUTO 🌸
Se vuoi dare un occhiata ne sarei felice 🥳
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A presto